Oil Spill Threatens Billion-Dollar Everglades Sport Fishing Industry

If the expanding oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico cannot be contained, South Florida stands to lose a  significant portion of the $1.2 billion a year in economic activity generated by recreational, or sport fishing alone, according to a new study conducted  by the Bonefish & Tarpon Trust that was funded in part by the Everglades Foundation.

According to the report, “The Economic Impact of Recreational  Fishing in the Everglades Region,” sport fishing in the Everglades generates about $722 million annually in retail sales of equipment and related expenditures. This popular activity produces more than $378 million in wages that support 12,391 full-time equivalent jobs and brings in tax revenues  exceeding $90 million (federal) and $72 million (state and local) from Florida’s 13 southernmost counties.

More than 8,000 jobs linked to saltwater sport fishing could be jeopardized if oil reaches the Everglades region. Of primary concern is the oil spill’s potential impact on more than  $883 million in economic impact associated with saltwater sport fish including bonefish, redfish, snook, sea trout and tarpon. This accounts for 71 percent of the $1.2 billion in Everglades Region’s sport fish economic impact. The study also provides an economic analysis of freshwater fishing  expenditures linked to popular species such as largemouth bass and  catfish.

The study is the result of a survey of more than 1,600 anglers who  were asked about the number of days they fished in the region, what they  fished for and their related expenditures.

“We originally funded this study to quantify how much the Everglades had to contribute, economically.  Sadly, it now it tells us what we stand to lose,” said Kirk Fordham,  Everglades Foundation CEO. “This potential tragedy makes our mission of  preserving and restoring America’s Everglades even more urgent.”

The survey was limited to Florida residents and did not take into account those  anglers who travel from out of state to fish in the Everglades Region, thus the actual economic contribution— and potential loss— would likely be much  greater than the findings suggest.  Those who make a living from  professions ranging from fishing guides to operating boat charter services could suffer significant financial setbacks and even secondary industries  dependent on sport fishing such as boat manufacturers, fishing gear and  apparel makers could be negatively impacted should the spill reach the Everglades Region.

“The spill has really put the findings in a new  light for me,” said study author, fisheries economics specialist Tony Fedler,  Ph.D. “The study now speaks to how fragile our environment is, how dependent  we are on it and the consequences of failing to protect it.”

Aaron Adams, Ph.D., director of operations for Bonefish &Tarpon Trust, added,  “In a worst case scenario, oil reaches the mangrove habitats that serve as  nurseries for so many of the game fish that support this sport fishing  community, which would have far-reaching consequences. Juvenile tarpon, for  example, which are the future of the fishery, depend on healthy mangrove  habitats. When you look at tarpon, the potential impacts are not limited to South Florida – adult tarpon annually migrate into the northern Gulf of Mexico and, on the east coast, as far north as the Chesapeake Bay.  This event  underscores the need for our resource managers to see the whole picture when  they make decisions about resource use.”

The 13 southernmost counties  included in the study -- known as “the Everglades Region” -- are: OsceolaHighlands, Okeechobee, St. Lucie, Martin, Glades, Lee, Hendry, Palm BeachCollier, Broward, Monroe and Miami-Dade. Recreational saltwater fishing was  limited to the shallows of Florida Bay on the northern side of the Florida Keys.

A complete copy of the study can be found by clicking b  visiting the Everglades Foundation website Media Center and Resources section  and accessing the Reports and Survey dropdown at  www.evergladesfoundation.org/pages/reports-and-surveys.


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